Thank you all very much. This session accomplished some significant things for jobs. We came together on fair, bipartisan redistricting, both legislatively and Congressional redistricting. We came together to protect the rights of individuals and religious freedom under the Marriage Equality Act. We also did really did really important and difficult things on stormwater, on investing in upgrades to sewage treatment plants, on stopping the proliferation of the inevitable pollution that flows into our streams from septics. So I really want to thank the chair Maggie McIntosh for her work in her committee and Senator Joan Carter Conway for all of their work.
This was a very good budget in terms of job creation, especially in our hard-hit construction trades. We are making the second largest investment we’ve done in school construction, and renovating older classrooms. So those are some of the highlights from this session.
The Lt. Governor will be touching on the Health Disparities Bill, which we will are going to be signing today. It’s sort of a forerunner of what we need to do in the nation when it comes to not only extending care to more of our citizens, but really improving the quality of care, improving the outcomes, and breaking down costs. I understand that it is the Health Bill that we will be signing first, followed by, ironically, the Maintenance of Effort Bill.
Sadly, the Legislature, despite the fact that we have had the number one public schools in America, four years in a row, despite the fact that we were on the cusp of making college more affordable for more people, the Legislature failed to enact an operating budget that was anything like the plan the House came up with, and it was pretty far away from the plan that I submitted to the Legislature— which is really a shame, because we had the ability, and I think the people of our State had the will, but our leaders weren’t able to come to the consensus necessary to protect education.
So ironically as we sign the Maintenance of Effort Bill, we are cutting by a quarter of a billion dollars what we invest in our children’s future and our children’s education. We are cutting by 10% what we invest in higher education. Most of those investments, in these tough times, were intended to make college more affordable for more families, so that every family could realize the hopes and dreams they see in the eyes of their children; so they can send them to a great college and let them be all that they can be. We failed to do those things.
We also failed our law enforcement officers on the front lines in reducing violent crime; and to save lives. We failed our neighbors and our law enforcement officers in places like Salisbury, where they’ve done a great job of reducing homicides, and here in the capital city, in Annapolis, where we’ve been making all sorts of strides in reducing violent crime.
So sadly, the operating budget was pretty much the low point, from my experience here, and it’s not for lack of work by people like Secretary Eloise Foster, our Secretary of Budget and Management. They did an outstanding job, and I really want to thank her. I want to thank Joe Bryce and everyone in the Office of Legislative Affairs, and I want to those members of the General Assembly who did not lose focus on the best interests of the people that we serve.
We cannot change the past. We can only change the future. And in many ways, thanks to the work of this session, we are changing that future, for the better. In other ways, unfortunately, we’re taking a step back.